The Baggies have a decent history – champions of England in 1920 and five-time FA Cup winners, the most recent coming in 1968, two years after their sole League Cup triumph – and have spent only two seasons outside the top two divisions.
However, over recent decades have become better known for their seemingly endless yo-yoing between those top two flights: since 2000 they've had four promotions, three relegations, two failed play-off attempts and one "Great Escape" after being bottom of the Premiership at Christmas.
It means that life is rarely dull for your average WBA supporter, as they tend to either be bossing the Championship or fighting for their lives in the Premier League. This lends the Hawthorn a cracking atmosphere, and the supporters here have a real sense of fun, often enjoying a nonsensical jump around to the bizarre refrain of “Boing Boing, Baggies, Baggies.”
Roy Hodgson is the latest to be charged with injecting consistency and avoiding the drop, and he has some genuine talent in the likes of Scott Carson, Jonas Olsson and Graham Dorrans. But without a vast war chest to dip into, it looks like the risk of yo-yoing may continue for some time. Nerve-wracking for the locals – but a whole lot of fun for the neutral visitor.
The Hawthorns has been West Brom’s home since 1900, and at an altitude of 168m is the highest ground in the UK, fact fans – although away teams hardly need oxygen tanks as a result. With a capacity of 26,500 and old-fashioned stands, it’s intimate rather than intimidating, but they can turn it up to 11 for the big games. Be sure as you walk round the stadium to check out the Jeff Astle gates, celebrating one of the club’s favourite sons.
The Hawthorns railway station is five minutes from the ground; Smethwick is a quarter of an hour walk. If you’re driving, the ground (B71 4LF) is located on the A41 Birmingham-West Bromwich Road, about half a mile from Junction 1 of the M5. On leaving the M5, take the A41 towards Birmingham – the ground is on your right. Street parking is available, or alternatively there are a few private car parks at some local industrial units nearby.
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